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IDC trashes Linux TCO

According to the analysis, which was conducted by IDC on behalf of Microsoft and released this week – just happening to coincide with the start of the Enterprise Linux Forum in Boston! – ‘Microsoft Windows 2000 servers were less costly to run and maintain over a five-year period than were Linux servers for four important enterprise workloads: networking, file, print and security.’

For Kevin Hunter, senior product marketing manager, servers, Microsoft Canada, the study’s findings are particularly relevant to the Canadian market. “I believe we are the price-performance leader in the world, as well as Canada.” He cites the small-business market which makes up the lion’s share of the Canadian business landscape, and its need for manageability, something which is largely missing in Linux, but not Microsoft’s Small Business Server.

Windows Small Business Server 2000, Microsoft’s integrated solution, features the OS itself, Exchange 2000 Server, Outlook 2000 clients, SQL Server 2000 as well as customizable management consoles. That’s a key differentiator from Linux, said Hunter. Small businesses don’t have the time or resources to manage their IT infrastructures, so SBS with a unified interface and consoles “helps reduce this cost of management… (and) over a period of time, it is a savings of resources.”

IDC found that Microsoft Windows 2000 servers were less costly to run and maintain over a five-year period than were Linux servers for four important enterprise workloads: networking, file, print, and security. Linux servers were found to be less costly in the Web space because there were more packaged software products for Linux in that space and because of the maturity of thin Linux servers arrayed in Web-centric “server farms” or tiers. However, the Windows 2000 servers studied ran, on average, more workloads than did the Linux servers, making them cost-effective platforms for IT customer sites that are also running business-critical and mission-critical workloads.

According to the Microsoft-sponsored survey of 104 companies in North America, the cost advantage of Windows over Linux for the four workloads ranges from 11 to 22 per cent over a five-year period. Linux demonstrated a cost advantage over Windows in only one category – Web serving – but with only a 6 per cent advantage over Windows for running Web applications over that same time frame.

The key, said Hunter, is that while the Linux OS may be free, or the next best thing to it, the actual cost of software acquisition only represents approximately 5 per cent of the total cost of ownership. The other, more costly factors include staffing and downtime. IDC says that IT staffing accounts for 62.2 per cent of TCO, while downtime represented another 23.1 per cent of the costs. Software acquisition, in contrast, accounts for only 4.6 per cent of the TCO, while hardware represents 4.4 per cent.

IDC did note that although ‘Windows 2000 generally had a total cost advantage ranging from 13 to 22 per cent compared with Linux, this advantage is not always, in and of itself, a compelling reason to initiate a move from one platform to the other.’ According to the research company, evaluating such a move would require a return on investment (ROI) justification as well as a compelling TCO metric. Additionally, a host of other factors, some of them difficult to quantify, must be considered as part of a decision about operating environments.

Linux isn’t just a potential threat, it’s poised to take over the server market, according to Butler Group, Europe’s leading independent IT analyst. In a new report, it predicts that by 2009 Linux will take significant market share from the proprietary-based Unix systems of IBM, Sun and HP. While Microsoft’s .NET is also expected to benefit, the Butler Group believes it will play second fiddle to Linux.

And if that isn’t enough to set Microsoft off, there’s the growing interest in Linux on the desktop, the market Big Red currently owns. According to a report by Reuters, on Wednesday Microsoft CFO John Connors said Linux was a definite threat to the desktop market. “In terms of growing the company…It would be difficult if Linux were to become a phenomenon on the desktop,” he said.

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